I’m at my brother’s house for Christmas. It’s great to be with family again, we missed it last year. Getting back together with your friends and/or family is one of the touted treasures of the season. But sometimes overlooked is the coexistence of winter holidays with the solstice, when the darkest days—of the northern hemisphere—turn back toward the light.
I’m never against a little darkness in the world. All those Darth Vader t-shirts and stormtrooper backpacks show that we kinda like it. We carry it within us and we use it to entertain ourselves and to teach good ways of being to others. But we don’t do well giving in to dark impulses or even weather all the time.
The light comes again, we experience renewal as winter fades and spring promises growth all around us. It just means more when we understand the cold and dark things and don’t shy away from exploring them and understanding them.
Usually, I’ll get caught up in the early December—or late November—buzz, and then suddenly it’s Christmas Eve. This long, difficult year is ended, and it feels like I’ve had some time to revel in the beginning of Winter and a gradual approach. I hope all of you have a fun and fulfilling celebration of the turn of another year, in your chosen/traditional ways.
That should really be the thing to think about while so many of us celebrate renewal and rebirth of a regular cycle, but just to take it too blogsplainy far:
It’s only a trick of the calendar that allows us to think of an endpoint for a year. Sure, the Earth reaches the same point in its orbit around the Sun at this time, but it’s really a few days off the celestial extreme. What’s special about this one? We have three other possible extremes, two equinoxes and another solstice, as equal partners, if we’re being neutral. Historically, we’re matching the “rebirth” of the sun, nearly, but that’s from a prejudicial Northern Hemispherical perspective. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s their summer, their solar maximum.
Like any object in orbit, any point along Earth’s path—i.e., any calendar day, any moment on the clock—can be arbitrarily chosen and claimed as a starting point. If you’re alive, there’s always another chance to start again. We reach more or less the same point in orbit around the Sun, but we’re also traveling around the galactic core, at a new place in space than we were last year. And the Milky Way is itself moving, which makes every year a new point in space.
Make some New Year’s resolutions, get determined, become more disciplined, make more things. Our rituals are important and create meaning.
But remember that it’s always a brand new point along the curve, and you can always start again no matter the day.
Part of the reason we feel so strongly about Christmas and similar winter solstice events is that they come with attendant decorations, music, and themes. They repeat every year, rituals that defy cynicism and modernity, sometimes reaching autonomic levels of response to them.
You may enjoy these effects. You may hate them. What matters is that they affect so many of us in this way.
What are ways we can incorporate these feelings into our work? What elements and themes might make a piece so strong it evokes something like winter holiday nostalgia in its audience? Solve that deep problem and make a thing that is powerful and irresistible. Well, given the proviso that Xmas music fatigue is the flip side of the seasonal coin, maybe sprinkle a bit of balance in with that solution.
The iconic moment brought to my mind the most this year is this quotation pair: